Vikramshila express was standing at Jamalpur station. Six year old boy, Girdhari was looking out. A man with Iktara (one stringed musical instrument) stood in front of Girdhari and started singing, Jodi tor daak shune keu naa aashe, Tobe ekla chalo re, Ekla chalo re, Tobe ekla chalo re… Girdhari felt immersed in the beautiful Bangla song. Bhaiya told Girdhari, this famous song has been written by our Nobel laureate, Rabindranath Tagore. Jodi tor daak shune keu naa aashe, Tobe ekla chalo re means if they answer not to your call, walk alone. Girdhari wondered, who were these people who walked alone and most important, why did they walk alone ? These and some other questions were answered in detail to Maverick Yogi by another maverick who took almost 730 days to cover approximately 9,000 kilo metres from Melbourne (Australia) to Bangalore (India) on his motorcycle ! Pleased to introduce, dear reader, the audacious, the unpredictable and the daredevil himself who is here to share his impossible story of voyage – Raj Andagere !
Launch-Pad : Raj speaks softly as he goes down memory lane. I grew up in a village, went to a Kannada medium school. I was very quiet, observant and a very obedient kid. Our school principal, Reshma Madam was very, very open minded and forward thinking. She is a very influential person in my life.
Videsh Calling : I joined a Polytechnic institute after tenth class. Here, I discovered design and architecture. Then I did a diploma in design. I saw an ad for, study in Australia. And I appeared for the test. I got selected in my second attempt. I studied architecture from Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, Australia.
Architecture really : There are two very clear kinds of architecture being practised today. One is, here I am, I am who I am. The other one is, I am here but you can’t tell me where I am because I am a nobody. I am more interested in the second part of it.
Why Me : It all began with the idea of seeing the Australian desert. The oldest civilisation lived in Australia. Sometimes you have to think something really big even if it might appear as bizarre. It could be way out of your thought, pocket, physical capacity. But that’s what brings you alive. I thought, may be I can ride back to India !
SNAFU Tale : I bought a brand new Honda motor cycle for the road trip. It was unregistered without any insurance as I had hardly any money left. In the morning, I opened my back door with my coffee… And whoosh… The bike was gone… stolen ! My ten thousand dollars disappeared with the bike into thin air !
Biker’s Take : After a couple of months I put together three and a half thousand dollars and bought a second hand similar model bike from a farm. This bike was in a really really bad condition. The biking experience is not so much about the bike. Its about you and your journey. You should continue your journey, no matter what.
The Phoenix Guy : I had lots of experiences. I had accidents. I was homeless. I was found on road, half unconscious. I walked into people’s houses looking for work. We have this notion that outside world is scarier, dangerous. It is not.
Tip for Bikers : Don’t buy the most expensive bike; buy something small, something economical which can be fixed anywhere. Go, get a simple bike, quieter bike, lighter bike which is cheap to run !
Road Trip Partners : I told myself its gonna be my journey and its gonna be my experience. I could cook, I could sleep and I could change clothes. I had some repair kits, maps, electronic things, a camera, a GoPro, tent, some ration and a small pressure cooker as company.
Biker versus Architect : It really gave me an insight into different parts of the world. I saw and felt how people lived in different climatic conditions, places, cultures, religions.
The Proposal : Raj smiles when he shares this incident. I was travelling in Malaysia. I stopped for meal at a small roadside restaurant. The attractive lady, owner of the restaurant in her twenties, sat next to me while I was eating. She asked me in her broken English, where you from ? I said, Australia. Our chat continued for a while. You married ? No. You have children ? No. Show me passport. I complied. She looked pleased, oh Australian, yeah. She looked deep into my eyes, you look Malaysian but you are Australian ! I asked her, how much for the meal. She said, no money, no money, you marry me first ! I left money on the table, ran towards my bike and and moved away.
Raj on different Cultures :
Australia – Australia is a funny country. It is very young. At the same time time it has world’s oldest civilisation. There you are travelling and meeting people. People don’t ask, where you from and what you are.
Indonesia – Indonesian people are innocent, modest, helping, always smiling and very open minded. Indonesians value their history.
Singapore – Entry into Singapore was a mammoth hassle. You need to have all the proper documents before you step on its soil.
Malaysia – Malaysia is destroying its history. They are trying to erase their history. They are making all efforts to project they are different. In Malaysia palm trees are replacing wilderness. I saw big bulldozers uprooting the trees in forests. It was a sad sight.
Thailand – Beautiful country, beautiful people.
Vietnam – Lovely people, rich history, rich culture.
Cambodia – Its an interesting country. Enjoyed my time there.
Laos – Its a poor version of China. Lovely people, unbelievable scenery.
Myanmar – Its like India was 40 years ago. Amazingly generous people. Everywhere it has two roads, one for the cars and the second one for bullock carts !
Bangladesh – It is wow, funny, hilarious and a very, very promising and young country.
Moment of Pride – From Bangladesh when I crossed the border post into India, I saw the Tiranga (Indian flag) and I started crying. The Indian security personnel were so proud of me. They took me to their general. They treated me like a rockstar.
Rise, Fall and Rise : Raj recalls, I was travelling in a small island in a remote part of Indonesia, underdeveloped, no hospitals. Local residents were descendants of the Portuguese. I had a real nasty fall on the road. I broke my rib cage, had head injuries. A Shaman was called from another island because he could speak some English. Next morning when I woke up, I was surrounded by men, women and children. They put one baby in my lap. The photo session began. Then another baby and so it went on. I was shocked with all the attention. Then the English speaking Shaman revealed to me, you look Jesus, you look Jesus !
NRI working in Swades : When I came back to India, I had to actually unlearn what I learnt abroad. It was really tough. I lived with my brother, Ajith (acclaimed architect) for sometime. This phase of transition helped me a lot. Currently, I’m working on a couple of projects in Auroville (Pondichery). I am in a very happy state now.
Contact Details of Raj Andagere :
E-Mail : Arkituct@gmail.com
Raj, very succintly adds more to his road trip insight. He says, I never knew I could overcome challenges. I started to learn more about myself. The real search was for, who am I ? What am I made of ? And this realisation hit me hard. We need to get beyond our obsession with ourselves. People are always concentrating on what I want, what I should look for. You never say I, you should always say we. Dear reader, eminent lyricist Majrooh Sultanpuri wrote this famous sher (Urdu couplet), Main Akela Hi Chala Tha Jaanib-E-Manzil Magar, Log Saath Aate Gaye Aur Kaarvan Banta Gaya. It means, I set off alone towards my goal, but, people came along and it began to turn into a caravan !